The yearly visit of the Yokohama campus of the RIKEN Research Institute has now become somewhat of a tradition and it is truly one of the highlights for IB Biologists. This year, we brought this collaboration one step further with the visit of one of RIKEN Yokohama's senior scientists, Dr Todd Duane Taylor, who gave our IB Biologists and Physicists a lecture about handling and curating the ever increasing amount of scientific data generated worldwide.
Dr Taylor earned his Ph.D. in genetics from OHSU in Portland, Oregon. In 1998, he became part of the groundbreaking research team at RIKEN Genomic Science Center in Yokohama, that worked on the Human Genome Project. A few years later he became a team leader in bioinformatics, where he continued to work on the human genome, the chimpanzee genome, and more recently on metagenomics as related to human health and the environment. He is now a Senior Research Scientist in the Laboratory for Microbiome Sciences and a Coordinator at RIKEN's Center for Integrative Medical Sciences.
We first met Dr Taylor last year since he was in charge of giving our Grade 11 Biologists a tour of the RIKEN facilities. A year later, it was the turn of our IB biologists and Physicists to welcome Dr Taylor in our school, where they heard about his unique perspective on how scientific research generates large amounts of so called "Big Data", and how it has to face challenges in organising and currting such data, which is not at all unlike those faced by major players on the web, the so-called GAFA. Dr Taylor's team actually produced their own tool, which they called iCLiKVAL, short for Interactive Crowdsourced Literature Key-Value Annotation Library. iCLiKVAL is an annotation tool that uses the power of crowdsourcing to add valuable annotation information to the rapidly accumulating volume of scientific literature (e.g, PubMed), and other media types, resulting in a comprehensive library of data that yields richer and more relevant search results.
After a one-hour lecture that brought the students up to speed, Dr Taylor gave a demosntration of iCLiKVAL and students were able to add their own contribution to this crowd-sourced, open source, annotation effort. The students quickly caught the hang of it and competed for who would bring the largest amount of annotations, the prize being a copy of the original Nature magazine that reported the findings of the Human Genome Project, signed by Dr Taylor himself.
Two hours was too short a time and we are already discussing about welcoming Dr Taylor again next year, possibly to hear about the amazing story of the Human Genome Project, which is still to this day one of the most significant examples of human collaboration and achievement.
We would like to thank Dr Taylor and RIKEN Yokohama for their constant effort in communicating science with the wider community.